Return To Magazine Index

Feature:
How Soaking In The River Changed Our Lives and Ministries

By John & Paul Sandford

A Word from John

The Father’s blessing currently being poured out at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship has been a lifesaver to Paula and me, and to our ministry. When Peter told the three thousand to repent that “times of refreshing may come,” it was in the context of the first glorious outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 3:19) When this new dimension of the Holy Spirit broke out in 1994 in Toronto, we knew about repentance; that’s the basis of all emotional healing. We knew about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and had often repeated the scripture as we taught, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit…” We’d say, “Don’t minister by your knowledge and experience, you’ll run in the flesh. It has to be the Holy Spirit who is the Counselor and the Healer in our Lord Jesus.”

However, to me, there’s still nothing more tiring than counseling. Though Paula and I knew that we were to release the burdens to God, it was always easier to say than to do. We had become soggy with people’s grief and emotional pain, defiled by the weight of their sins, and fond of saying, “The gunk keeps coming in faster than we can shovel it up!”

Though we didn’t know it then, what was missing was the dimension that fell at Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit and within it the manifest love of the Father. When we arrived in Toronto, we began to receive prayer. Flat on our backs lying on the carpet, we began to rejoice as His refreshing River washed away years of accumulated burdens. We celebrated Isaiah’s words, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will walk and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Now, even though we sometimes get physically weary, we don’t accumulate a backlog of burdens; instead, we bounce back refreshed. Friends tell us we look years younger, and others marvel and say, “How can you keep up such a schedule?” We can tell you that without experiencing the Father’s River of love that began flowing over us in Toronto, we couldn’t even have survived, much less have felt this great.

Fruit Of Emotional Healing

These aren’t the only benefits of this River of blessing; there have been many others. We have found that experiencing His love and emotional healing go hand in glove. Before we often saw fear block people from seeing and renouncing their sins and sinful practices. Now we are seeing the perfect love of the Father’s blessing cast out fear and transform people’s lives so much more quickly than we did before. And then the more they are healed, the more easily and fully they can receive the Father’s love. And the more they are filled with His love, the more healing they can receive, as love and healing spiral upwards into wholeness.

The Holy Spirit is like water. It leaks out of people with fractured hearts. They can’t maintain either their walk or the sense of His presence. But inner sanctification and transformation build the solid walls of character that can hold the fullness of Who God is.

Healing revelation of Jesus flows on the currents of God’s love. We have long known that truth wounds and kills when harshness or mere fleshly compassion carry the freight of it rather than the River of His love. Without God’s undergirding love, we fail to speak “the truth to one another” in a way that edifies. Both the sufferer and the healer can burn out in the process of healing when they bypass this refreshing stream.

What Was Lacking

Before we wondered what was lacking. Although we were seeing transformed lives and the fruit was good, it came at a heavy price-our own sanity! Although Jesus had said His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30), the burden we were carrying wasn’t—until we came to Toronto. It’s not Toronto. It’s what God has powerfully birthed there. Now, this new inner fountain of His love continuously refreshes us.

And we love to go back for more. We joyously run in the Spirit for months and months, and then come back to Toronto for another frolic in the River. It reminds us of the words of that grand old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” That’s the secret for us now, experiencing prayer through the power of His presence. Now it is an extremely important part of our lives, refreshing us as we go. Although we sometimes still grow weary, by receiving “soaking” prayers through our loving friends at Toronto we now experience “re-refreshing” so we can go at it again.

A Word from Paula

It is wonderful to be given permission in Toronto, even encouraged, to stay on the carpet and soak, and to drink as much as we can from His presence without being disturbed or feeling responsible to do any more than adore Him. At home we can truly rest in His presence, listening to music or enjoying the silence, and feel refreshed, but only for a little while. We find ourselves being continually interrupted by faxes, phones, mail and schedules. Often we have just begun to relax when some unexpected demand suddenly sounds that says, “Okay, out of the pool.”

The lingering effect of my experience of soaking in the River is that every time I am worshipping the Lord, whether in Toronto or elsewhere, I now feel like I am actually in a River, being buoyed in a flow that gently rocks and lifts me up. At the same time it flows through me with cleansing and refreshment quenching my spiritual thirst with a priceless drink of living water.

I am rather intrigued by the many varieties of responses people make to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: shaking, laughing, weeping, rolling, jumping, and crying out. At times I have wondered if my husband, John, and I will ever respond with more than quiet tears and laughter. As children we were never like other kids who jumped and squealed and yelled, even during peaks of excitement. But we feel His presence just as deeply. Perhaps the Lord will unleash dramatic reactions in us, too, someday. If so, that will be okay with us.

Changes In Our Counselees

Now I am seeing a significant change happening in many people who come to our ministry for counseling, and we attribute it to this new renewal in the Body of Christ. It used to be that a great number of people would seek counsel and prayer in order to merely get rid of their pain. Whenever people would only search for a self-centered “good life,” they always had a problem. Now that the Holy Spirit is falling with great love, casting out fear, denial doesn’t block as many people as it used to, especially men. This River is now motivating people to seek counsel for another reason.

Christians in this new renewal are increasingly concerned to deal with the things in their hearts which block intimate relationships with family, friends, and with the Lord Himself, not merely for their own personal emotional comfort, but in order to serve Him and others better. Consequently many people who now come for emotional healing are more aware of the need to take responsibility for their own sins, and to repent and make choices to forgive and then to express love and healing to others.

Through what is happening in Toronto and elsewhere, the Holy Spirit is calling us to learn how to “look on the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) He wants us to learn to build up others’ lives and ministries more than our own. He wants, in this new millennium, to build that corporate sense of heart and action among us which is spoken of in Ephesians 4:16, that will build His entire Body into the fullness of His stature and likeness. As the world hungers and thirsts for the Lord, it will see Him when His life is manifested in a people who have learned to live His love for others. (John 17:21) We thank Him for what we can experience in Toronto and take home to share with others.

(John and Paula Sandford, veterans of emotional healing ministry, are the authors of the book, The Transformation of the Inner Man. For more than 25 years, their ministry, Elijah House, has reached out to bind up the brokenhearted by training counselors and holding inner healing seminars throughout the world.)

Return To Magazine Index

 


© Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved.
Revised: 15 Aug 2002